LetterPress Chocolate’s owners want Angelenos to know the vast difference between chocolatiers and chocolate-makers. And while the city is full of the former, LetterPress is one of a few small batch chocolate-makers with a brand new retail store that just opened in Beverlywood on September 15.
Husband and wife team David and Corey Menkes are new faces in the chocolate industry. The couple started by blogging about their favorite sweet, then went on to make chocolates with a tiny tabletop machine in their apartment in 2014. The two opened a commercial space in 2016, but David is quick to point out the distinction between most chocolate shops and LetterPress.
“There’s chocolatiers and chocolate-makers,” says David. “We have tons of chocolatiers in LA, They make truffles and bonbons. They buy industrial chocolate from companies and add flavors to it, along with tons of vanilla and sugar. We are chocolate manufacturers that buy cocoa beans. We roast them, break them down, and make chocolate bars.”
The partners study chocolate in a similar manner to wine or coffee, and perform the entire chocolate-making process in front of customers. They start with cocoa beans from twelve origins, while emphasizing the natural and regional flavors of the chocolate. “Ecuador tastes like a peanut butter and jelly, Ghana tastes a brownie with graham cracker crust, and Honduras tastes like a raspberry tart,” explains David. “We’re not adding any flavors, this is what the cocoa beans actually taste like. We focus on a specific arm or region to bring good flavors.”
Custom machines are required to make quality chocolate bars, which can be very pricey. A machinist friend custom made one for the Menkes, and it’s used to make bars like the Peruvian limited edition bar called Ucayali with notes of caramel and fruit. They also steam-distill organic mint oil with Ashanti Ghana chocolate, and LetterPress makes their crunch bar with the ancient grain, amaranth, which is popped in the same manner as popcorn.
LetterPress has some heavy chocolate-making competition with Bar au Chocolat, the almost 70-year-old Compartes Chocolates, the renewed And Sons Chocolatiers, and John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood. Newcomer Milla Chocolates is rumored to open soon in Culver City. Hours for Letterpress run 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.